It’s no secret that Americans are losing trust in our federal government. What you may not realize, however, is that trust in government differs depending on an individual’s party affiliation and who is in power.
Perhaps the most worrying trend among Americans’ decline in trust is of the judicial branch. For decades, the federal court system was relatively insulated from the detrimental effects of political polarization. Only in one year, 2015, did Gallup record a judicial branch trust level of less than 60%. From 2020 to 2022, however, that level fell from 67% down to 47%, a new record low.
An October Gallup poll indicates that the trust level is driven down primarily by Democrats. only 23% of Democrats trust the supreme court, compared with 46% of independents, and 67% of Republicans. This wide disparity between the two parties is extremely worrying for a non-partisan institution.
The precipitous decline in faith is, in part, driven by the series of controversial rulings during the 2022 term, in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed the constitutional right to carry a pistol outside of the home, among other cases viewed as conservative victories. While I view the bulk of these rulings as being correct, sweeping changes to the status quo are bound to upset one side of the other.
However, for a number of reasons, this decline in institutional trust began even before these cases. The monumental 2021 term was only a realization of the fears Democrats had about the conservative majority. The true decline in trust has to do with Democratic politicians and the media deliberately undermining the credibility of the judiciary.
Beginning with the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the High Court, Democrat politicians and the media built a concerted effort to delegitimize the Supreme Court in anticipation of their future losses. During his confirmation process, Justice Kavanaugh was bombarded with a Democrat smear campaign, trying to paint him as a “gang rapist” with a series of incredibly weak, if not outright preposterous, sexual assault allegations. The media naturally went along with this, and has permanently destroyed the reputation of one of the courts’ moderating justices.
During her own confirmation process, Justice Amy Coney Barrett was a primary target of Democrat activists due to the heinous crime of being a religious woman. Democrats questioned whether she was capable of being fair and impartial due to her faith. Some went so far as to liken her affiliation to groups depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel in which Women are forced into childbearing slavery.
Republicans aren’t entirely blameless in the decline in trust. Then-senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was, indeed, hypocritical between his refusal of Merrick Garland’s confirmation in 2016 and the decision to confirm Justice Barrett in 2020. The partisan antics of Mitch McConnell has opened the door for Democrats to refer to the seats filled by Justice Gorsuch and Justice Barrett as “stolen” in further attempt to delegitimize their decisions.
In the wake of the May 2022 leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which foreshadowed the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, Democrat politicians further unleashed their activist base on the High Court. Conservative Justices’ home addresses were widely published online by activist groups following the leak, resulting in hundreds of protestors illegally showing up outside of their homes. That didn’t stop Senators, like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, from giving the protests their blessing.
The result of this Democrat animosity towards the Supreme Court hasn’t just contributed to the decline in trust, it has had tangible, dangerous ramifications. In the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson leak, a man attempted to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh, telling police that the chance that Roe might be overturned was one of the reasons he had traveled to Kavanaugh’s home. The subsequent media reaction downplaying, if not outright ignoring the story, further proved their desire to skew the narrative against the Conservative majority.
If you scroll through any predominantly left wing online forums, like reddit, you’re bound to see comments referring to conservative justices as “christian nationalists,” “fascists,” or just plain old “nazis.” This rhetoric among the chronically-online wing of the party is the underlying vessel that drives this animosity, but it has over time seeped into the speeches of members of congress.
This polarization seeping into the once-safe judicial branch has had devastating consequences, and we’re only just beginning to see the ramifications. In the coming years, if we continue down this path, the court will become devoid of any institutional respect, no different than the Executive or the Legislature whose partisan credibility shifts substantially based on who is in power.
Democrats have deliberately undermined the credibility of the court, and the decision to do so is just another symptom of our rapidly polarizing federal government. Unfortunately, given their success in the 2022 midterms, they seemingly have no incentive to alter their behavior, and we may only be seeing the beginning of the decline of the once widely respected branch.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.